Soil respiration chambers (Licor 8100-8150) and eddy covariance towers in a Midwest restored prairie (IL, USA)

Lab Group:

Nuria Gomez-Casanovas
Institute for Genomic Biology
Room 1400
1206 W. Gregory Drive
Urbana, Illinois 61801



Terrestrial ecosystems can have substantial feedbacks on the climate system through changes in the uptake or release of relevant greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O), and by regulating energy and water exchanges between the land surface and the atmosphere. Terrestrial ecosystems are in turn strongly dependent on changes in climate and land use. To date, the consequences of these climate-ecosystem interactions on the global climate system are largely unknown.

My research focuses on understanding how changes in climate and land use affect terrestrial ecosystems to help us predict how global change will shape the climate-ecosystem interactions and impact the global climate system.  To answer these questions I combine ecological and physiological approaches in field and lab experiments.  I am also particularly interested in using data synthesis approaches to understand how GHG dynamics respond to changes in climate and land use.


Ecological sustainability of energy cane as a biofuel feedstock

Changes in land use can have a large impact on the global climate system with consequences that are difficult to predict. As part of a collaborative effort between Evan DeLucia and Carl Bernacchi Labs, we are investigating the impact of land conversion from grazed pastures to energy cane plantations on GHG dynamics (CO2, CH4, and N2O), water and energy fluxes.

Changes in land use may affect ecosystem parameters –plant productivity, soil temperature and moisture– that can alter ecosystem GHG dynamics. Studying the effects of changes in land use on GHG dynamics implies a thorough understanding of the mechanisms underlying GHG dynamics.   For this purpose, we are combining eddy covariance and soil chamber methods along with measurements of plant and soil parameters. This project is funded by the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI).

Eddy covariance tower in a grazed pasture in Central Florida.(FL, USA)



Carbon (C) sequestration and Soil respiration in Midwest agricultural land

As a postdoctoral researcher in collaboration with UIC and ANL we investigated how Net Ecosystem Exchange (NEE) is affected by changes in climate and vegetation. This project was funded by DOE and aimed to study the C sequestration potential of Midwest agricultural land (Matamala et al., submitted).  A major objective of my research was to investigate the mechanisms underlying variations in soil respiration and its partitioning –autotrophic and heterotrophic respiration – (Gomez-Casanovas et al., submitted). We combined micrometeorological, soil respiration chamber and C isotopic methods to partition soil respiration.

Soil respiration chambers (Licor 8100-8150) in a Midwest restored prairie (IL, USA)







Effects of elevated CO2 on plant respiration

Climate can also affect crucial physiological processes such as plant respiration. During my PhD research at UB I studied how elevated CO2 affects plant respiration and the respiratory machinery in the CAM plant Opuntia ficus-indica (Gomez-Casanovas et al., 2007).  This project was funded by Spanish government. I have also contributed to scientific and educational literature addressing how changes in climate affect physiology at the plant level (Azcon-Bieto et al., 2008; Azcon-Bieto et al 2004; Sanchez-Diaz et al., 2004).






Confocal images of photosynthetic cells of Opuntia cladodes showing mitochondria.
Plants were grown at either ambient (A) or elevated CO2 (E).